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STIMULANTS:
Cocaine, Amphetamin, Ecstasy, Alcohol, Tobacco, Caffeine

by Dr. Mariam Doreen Joseph, Australia

Posted: Saturday, June 17, 2000 04:01 PM CST


COCAINE
(Coke, Charlie, Snow, Rock, The white, The nice, Uncle, Crack, Nuggets, Wash, Gravel)

Cocaine is a stimulant drug as it directly affects the central nervous system. Cocaine was used in the past as a local anaesthetic in many countries. Cocaine is a white powder obtained from the leaves of the coca plant which grows in many areas of South America. It is a powerful stimulant, which has similar effects to amphetamines.

Forms of Cocaine

  1. White Powder (cocaine Hydrochloride) It can be inhaled or injected but cannot be smoked because it is destroyed at high temperature.
  2. Freebase Cocaine This is an extract of cocaine hydrochloride and it could be smoked. Crack is a very pure type of freebase cocaine and it is sold in the forms of small crystals or "rocks".
  3. Solubale Form Soluble cocaine is sometimes injected, possibly mixed with heroin (this mixture is sometimes called 'Speedball') but the usual method is for a small amount (usually called a 'line') to be sniffed or 'snorted' up the nose through a small tube and is absorbed into the blood through the thin membranes in the nose.

People who sell these drugs often mix them with other substances to increase their profits and these substanses can be harmful as well to the body.

History

Andean Indians have been chewing on cocoa leaves (which are the raw ingredient for cocaine production) for over five thousand years. When the Spanish arrived in South America they took a dim view of the practice claiming it was ungodly. However it was via the Spanish that cocoa leaves reached Europe.

Cocaine as it is known today was first synthesised in 1855 although it was not until 1880 were its effects were recognised by the medical world. One of the most famous people to use and prescribe cocaine was Sigmund Freud who early on in his career promoted it as a useful tonic, although later on also admitted to its dangers and drawbacks.

Coco-cola was another famous source of cocaine. It was introduced by John Pemberton in 1886 and was made with cocaine laced syrup and caffeine. However, due to public pressure the cocaine content was dropped in 1903.

It was introduced to the UK in the nineteenth century in various tonics and pick-me-ups but wasn't used widely as a 'party' drug in its purer powder form. It was first made illegal during World War I when a panic spread that (mostly German made) cocaine was being sold to British troops. As with most drugs an ethnic minority is usually associated with its evils and in this case the London resident chinese population were scapegoated.

By 1930 there was almost no 'cocaine scene' in the UK mainly due to the wide availability of amphetamines and due to efforts to stamp it out. However since then use has been rising again. Although often considered to be a drug of the well off, due to falling prices it is used by a wide range of people. However, it is still far more expensive compared to other stimulants such as amphetamines.

Crack was according to legend created by Yanqui drugs traffickers in the early 1970s as a way of testing the purity of South American bought cocaine. It first became common in the big American cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Washington. It eventually reached the UK but is still quite rare and does not seem to leave the urban areas of big cities where it is most common.

Effects

The effect of cocaine on the body varies from person to person and it depends on the amount of the drug is taken, the way is taken, bodt's size and weight, previous usage of the drug, taking it with other drugs, person's mood and type of the drug.

Immediate effects of a single low dose

The effect can last from few minutes to few hours.

  • increased heart rate
  • agitation
  • sexual arousal
  • extreme feeling of well-being
  • unpredictable or violent behaviour
  • enlarged pupils
  • increased body temperature
  • inability to judge risks
  • Higher doses can cause headaches, dizziness, heart problems, loss of interest in sex, loss of motivation ans concentration and violent behaviour.

Other effects are related to the way the drug is taken like snorting cocaine can lead to nose bleed or sinusitis. Smoking the drug can cause lung problems. Injecting the drug can increase the risk of HIV and hepatitis B and C infection. Long term injection can damage the blood vessels and can cause serious problems.

Overdosing

Overdosing the drug can kill the person, even as little as 10 mg. It can cause heart failure, lung failure and burst blood vessels in the brain. Psychosis, mental distribution, delusions, hearing voices and so on.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms occur when a dependent person stops using the drug or severely cuts down the amount they use. Withdrawal symptoms from cocaine can include: deep depression; suicidal feelings; nausea; vomiting; shaking fits; fatigue; weakness; hunger; long but disturbed sleep; irritability; muscle pain; craving for the drug.

Because Cocaine is illegal drug, it can cause long term legal and social problems - for instance in work, relationships and financial.


AMPHETAMINE
(Speed, Sulph, Whizz, Billy)

Amphetamine is a stimulant drug as it directly affects the central nervous system. Amphetamine was used in the past to treat depression, obesity and a range of other conditions. it is still used to treat some uncommon medical conditions. Amphetamines bought on the street are usually in the form of white or yellow powder, manufactured illegally. They can be sold as tablets or as a liquid in capsules. It can be swallowed, injected ('banged', 'shot', 'whapped')or inhaled. There is also a smokeable form of speed, commonly called Ice (also Crystal, Glass and Ice Cream), although this is quite rare. In the U.S., methamphetamine is most commonly referred to as 'crank', 'meth', 'shit' (as in, Do you have any shit ?) or 'crystal'.

History

Amphetamine was first synthesised in 1887. However, it was almost 30 years later that it was first used for medical purposes. Due to its ability to dilate small 'air sacs' in the lungs it was sold as inhaler for asthmatics, but was widely abused. During the 30s and 40s recreational amphetamine use took off. Some people finding it the ideal drug to make their lives easier to manage during times of depression and war.

During the Second World War large amounts of amphetamines (72 million tablets) were given to soldiers to keep them alert and awake. Even Hitler took daily amphetamine injections.

Until 1956 many amphetamine based substances were easily and leggally available over the counter. After 1956 it was available only as a prescription drug. This continued until 1964 when the Drugs Act made posssession of amphetamine without a presecription illegal.

Due to its energy boosting and active nature it has been used by many (mainly youth) subcultures. The 60s Mods used it partly in reaction to the passive dope smoking hippy movement. Recently it has had somewhat of a revival due to its use in raves and clubs.

Effects

The effect of amphetamine on the body varies from person to person and it depends on the amount of the drug is taken, the way is taken, bodt's size and weight, previous usage of the drug, taking it with other drugs, person's mood and type of the drug.

Immediate effects of a single low dose

The effect can last from few hours to few days.

  • reduced appetite
  • increased rate of breathing and pulse
  • increased blood pressure
  • extreme feeling of well-being
  • panic attacks
  • enlarged pupils
  • inability to sleep
  • hyperactivity; talkativeness anxiety;irritability; suspiciousness; a threatening manner

Higher doses can cause headaches, dizziness, restlessness, shaking, pale skin, repetitive movements, feeling of being powerful or superior, aggressive, reduced resistance to infection, malnutrition, emotional disturbance and psychosis.

Most of the crank bought on the street is mixed, referred to on the street as 'cut'. The cut is usually something as inoccuous as baking soda or 'Fruit Fresh'. Crank obtained in powder form is usually cut before purchase. Cut makes the original product go farther, thus bringing more money per gram. Crank is often cut with cocaine, heroine, or crushed codeine tablets (referred to as 'speed balls').

This is done to increase the rush or 'buzz' of an inferior product, or done by the user himself. Crank has caused stroke, heart attack, suicide, murder, imprisonment, insanity, and death.

Other effects are related to the way the drug is taken like snorting cocaine can lead to nose bleed or sinusitis. Injecting the drug can increase the risk of HIV and hepatitis B and C infection. Long term injection can damage the blood vessels and can cause serious problems.

Effects of higher doses

  • sweating
  • headaches
  • restlessness
  • shaking
  • irregular beathing
  • pale skin
  • dizziness
  • feelings of being poweful or superior
  • repetitive movements
  • very rapid or irregular heartbeat

Effects of continued use

  • malnutrition
  • reduced resistance to infection
  • violence, often for no apparent reason
  • emotional disturbance
  • periods of psychosis

Overdosing

Acute amphetamine poisoning can cause a number of effects including:

  • irregular heart beat
  • heart attack
  • a very high fever
  • burst bood vessels in the brain
  • psychosis ( hearing voices, delusions, suspicicion and fear of persecusion). Death also has been reported.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms occur when a dependent person stops using the drug or severely cuts down the amount they use. Withdrawal symptoms from amphetamine can include: fatigue; hunger; deep depression and lack of energy; exhaustion; irritability; agitation; anxiety and carving for a "high".

Because Amphetamine is illegal drug, it can cause long term legal and social problems - for instance in work, relationships and financial.


ECSTASY
(MDMA)('E', ADAM, MDMA, MDA, MDEA, Pills, 'X', Love Doves)

Chemically ecstasy is known as methylene-dioxymethamphetamine, usually referred to as MDMA. It is one of a huge family of related drugs from the MDA family which fall between hallucinogens (like LSD) and the amphetamine family. It usually comes in small tablets that may have a picture printed on them such as a dove, a hammer and sickle, or a diamond and the drug is often referred to by its appearance (such as 'Doves').

Ecstasy started being used as a recreational drug by a wide variety of people around 1985. It is commonly used at raves and clubs to accompany the various forms of dance music. It is estimated by some people that 1 million people a week take ecstasy in the UK.

However, a lot of tablets sold as ecstasy may contain no MDMA at all. They may contain a related substance such as MDEA or MDA, which have similar effects but often may contain amphetamine or in some cases no drugs at all.

It directly affect the central nervous system by speeding up the activity of certain chemicals in the brain.

History

Ecstasy in the form of MDMA was first synthesised in 1914 as a drug to reduce appetite. It wasn't until 1981 that American youths first started using it as a recreational drug. It was entirely legal in the USA until 1985 when it was added to the banned list.

Ecstasy came to the UK as part of the dance culture which had spread from Chicago based house clubs. 1985 was really the beginning of ecstasy use in the UK but its use quickly increased greatly. Nowadays the governement estimate that between one, and one and a half million 'E's are taken every weekend in the UK. However, recently there is a trend for pills sold as 'E's not to have MDMA in them at all. Most have some chemical relative of MDMA, such a MDEA or MDA, or simply some other drug such as amphetamines.

Effects

The effect of ecstasy on the body varies from person to person and it depends on the amount of the drug is taken, the way is taken, bodt's size and weight, previous usage of the drug, taking it with other drugs, person's mood and type of the drug.

Immediate effects of a single low dose

The effect can last up to six hours, but some may persist for up to 32 hours.

  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased confidence
  • sweating and nausea
  • extreme feeling of well-being
  • anxiety
  • paranoid feelings
  • jaw clenching, grinding teeth

Higher doses can cause hallucinations (seeing, hearing or smelling things that do not exist), sensation of floating, strange behaviour, fits, vomiting.

Other effects are "hangover" effect-including loss of appetite, insomnia, depression, muscle aches and difficulty in concentrating-particularly on the day after the drug is taken. Death also has been reported.

Because Ecstasy is illegal drug, it can cause long term legal and social problems - for instance in work, relationships and financial.


ALCOHOL
(Booze)

Alcohol is a depressant drug that reduces social inhibitions and relaxes. Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of fruits, vegetables or grains. Alcoholic drinks consist mainly of water and ethanol or ethyl alcohol to varying strengths. All alcoholic drinks have the ABV (alcohol by volume) percentage shown on the container which give an indication of their strength.

Pure alcohol has no colour or taste. Alcoholic drinks vary in colour and taste because of the ingredients which are used to flavour them. For example, beer get's its colour from malt and its taste from hops. Wines get their colour and taste from the kinds of grapes (red or white) used.

History

One of the earliest mentions of wine making is from an Egyptian papyrus dated 3,500 BC. However, alcohol drinking is thought to go back almost as far as the human race does. Alcohol has been central to social, religious and personal use all over the world throughout history. Although the making of alcoholic spirits like gin and brandy only started some one thousand or so years ago.

Effects

The effect of alcohol on the body varies from person to person and it depends on the amount of the drug is taken, the way is taken, bodt's size and weight, previous usage of the drug, taking it with other drugs, person's mood and type of the drug. Children and young people and women are usually more affected by alcohol than adult men. This is because they tend to have lower weights smaller livers and a higher proportion of fat to lean.

Immediate effects of alcohol

  • relaxation
  • feeling of well being
  • loss of inhibition
  • flushing; dizziness
  • unclear judgement
  • uncoordinated movements
  • slow reactions
  • blurred vision
  • slurred speech
  • aggression
  • vomiting
  • unconsciousness

Heavy drinking over a short period of time can cause a hangover, headache, shakiness and possibly vomiting. Because of its effects on judgement, concentration, vision and coordination, drinking is a common cause of accidents, particularly car accidents and drownings. Alcohol can kill by interfering with the brain's control over breathing but people usually pass out before this happens.

Long term effects

  • poor diet
  • stomach inflammations
  • frequent infections
  • skin problems
  • liver damage
  • brain damage
  • damage to reproductive organs
  • memory loss; confused thinking
  • heart and blood disorders
  • depression
  • relationship problems
  • poor work performance
  • financial difficulties
  • legal problems

Standard Drink

Alcohol is absorbed very quickly into the blood from the stomach, in as short a time as 5 to 10 minutes. The effects can last for several hours depending on the amount and how quickly it was drunk. Women absorb alcohol more quickly because their bodies contain less water. The water dilutes the alcohol and so the same amount of alcohol will produce a higher amount of alcohol in the blood. Alcohol drinks are not made up only of alcohol. Depending on the type of drink, the mount of pure alcohol varies from 2% to 60%. The stronger the drink, the higher the percentage of alcohol it contains. Because of this, it is useful to remember these measures called standard drinks.

Alcohol and driving

In NSW, the legal limit for drinking and driving for most drivers is 0.05 BAC. A limit of 0.02 BAC applies to L and P-plate drivers, drivers under 25 for their first three years of driving starting with the privisional licence, and drivers of heavy vehicle, public passenger vehicle and dangerous goods vehicle.

Sobering up

Sobering up takes time. About 10% of alcohol in the blood is discharged through breath, sweat and urine; the rest is broken down by the liver. The liver can only work at a fixed rate, getting rid of about one standard drink an hour.

Nothing can speed up the work of the liver, not black coffee, cold showers, exercise, vomiting or any other favourite remedy. Vomiting only removes the alcohol in the stomach that has not had time to be absorbed into the bloodstream-at most the last drink will be eliminated this way. Taking a shower or drinking black coffee may help someone who has been drinking to feel more awake, but it won't reduce their BAC.


TOBACCO
(Baccy)

Tobacco is the dried leaves of a plant that grows in may parts of the world. Tobacco contains a variety of chemicals, including nicotine which is a drug with a mild stimulant effect. Most tobacco is sold in the form of cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco (cigar and pipe tobacco is made from stronger darker tobacco).

History

The first record of tobacco smoking is from Mayan records from about 500 AD, although it is very likely that tobacco had been smoked for a long time before. It arrived in England in 1565 although it wasn't until 1586 that Sir Walter Raleigh brought a large amount back from the 'New World'. It was used at first purely for medical purposes, as it was thought that tobacco could cure almost everything. The pupils at Eton College were made to smoke a pipe of tobacco every morning to keep them healthy ! Cigarettes first arrived when British Troops arrived back from the Crimean War where the French and Turkish armies smoked tobacco rolled up in paper. When the automatic rolling machine was invented in 1881 it paved the way for cigarettes to be made on a huge scale. This was the start of the massive multinationals which produce the world's tobacco and cigarettes today.

Effects

The effect of tobacco on the body varies from person to person and it depends on the amount of the drug is taken, the way is taken, bodt's size and weight, previous usage of the drug, taking it with other drugs, person's mood and type of the drug.

Tobacco smoke consists of droplets of tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide and other gases. The amount of nicotine (the main active ingredient) and other substances that is absorbed through the lungs depends on how much and how deeply the smoke is inhaled. Nicotine is a stimulant and smokers feel that tobacco helps relieve boredom and tiredness and also helps reduce stress and anxiety. The effects are almost immediate but fade quickly, which encourages continual use. Some people may experience nausea and dizziness when they inhale tobacco smoke for the first few times. Small amounts of more than 4,000 other substances can be found in cigarette smoke, including some which are toxic and 43 which have been identified as being carcinogenic (causing cancer). Some of the substances found in cigarette smoke are acetone, amonia and hydrogen cyanide.

Immediate effects

  • increased pulse rate
  • temporary rise in blood pressure
  • acid in the stomach
  • kidney produce less urine
  • brain and nervous system activity stimulated then reduced weaker appetite, taste and smell
  • decreased blood flow to body extremities like fingers and toes
  • dizziness; nausea; watery eyes

Long term effects

  • shortness of breath; coughing
  • stains on fingers and teeth
  • narrowing and/or hardening of blood vessels, particularly in the heart and legs
  • increased risk of respiratory infections e.g. colds, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis
  • increased risk of emphysema (a chronic, progressive lung disease)
  • increased risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease
  • increased risk of cancer of lungs, mouth, larynx, oesophagus (gullet), bladder, kidney, pancrease and cervix
  • increased risk of stomach ulcers
  • increased risk of peripheral vascular disease due to decreased blood flow in blood vessels supplying legs speeds up some of the physical signs of aging, such as skin and wrinkles
  • affects female fertility; women who smoke are more likely to be infertile or take longer to conceive than women who do not smoke

Withdrawal symptoms

  • increased nervousness and tension
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • stomach and bowel disturbances
  • loss of concentration
  • muscle spasm
  • changes to taste
  • headache
  • appetite increase
  • cough
  • carving for cigarettes

Smoking and pregnancy

Studies have indicated that smoking during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth and illness of the child in early infancy. It has also associated with the sudden infant death syndrome (cot death).

Weight gain and give up smoking

Weight gain is not an automatic result of stopping smoking. If people put on weight it is usually because they eat more when they have stopped smoking. There is also evidence that a person's metabolism slows down when they stop using nicotine.

Passive smoking

Passive smoking is term used to describe the effect of tobacco smoke on people who don't smoke but spend time with smokers.

Mainstream smokeis smoke drawn through a cigarrete into a smoker's mouth and lungs. Second hand smokeis the smoke that drifts off the end of a cigarette into the air and is completely unfiltered. Some poisons in tobacco smoke are much more concentrated in sidestream smoke that in mainstram smoke.

The evidence on passive smoking suggests that it is a significant cause of ling cancer in non-smokers and a cause of acute asthma attacks in asthma sufferers. Children of smoking parents also have an increased risk of developing serious chest illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.


CAFFEINE

Many people think of caffeine as something in coffee. It is also found in many other common substances. These include: Tea, cocoa, chocolate and cola. Caffeine is defined as a drug because it affects the central nervous system. It is categorised as a stimulant drug because caffeine speeds up production of nerve impulses.

Incoffee beans, caffeine content will depend on the strain of the coffee plant. The Arabic strain contains about 1% caffeine and is grown in Cetral and South America. The Robusta strain contains about 2% caffeine and is grown in Africa and Indonesia. In tea, the caffeine contents depends on the strength of the brew. Caffeine content in tea can be as high as 5%. The caffeine content in a cup of coffee,however, is usually higher than tea. This is because it takes a lot more coffee beans to make a cup of coffee than tea leaves to make a cup of tea.

History

The first historical record of Caffeine use was from Aztec records from the time of the Aztec leader Montezuma. Caffeine was taken in the form of a hot drink made with cacao (the 'chocolate' tree) leaves and various herbs and spices. Montezuma was said to have drunk up to 50 cups a day. Chocolate in the form of the chocolate bar was first introduced by the Bristol company Fry & Son in 1847. Coffee proved to be a far more popular form of caffeine intake. It is mentioned in the Koran, the holy book of the Moslem religion and originates from Africa and the Middle East. It was introduced into the UK originally as a medicine but became extremely fashionable between 1670 and 1730 when there was a massive increase in the number of coffee houses. However, coffee houses became the place to debate political and social issues and so were closed by the authorities because they were considered to be subversive. However this was extremely unpopular and in time the ban was lifted on condition that places that sold coffee were not to give out political leaflets. Tea is another source of caffeine which originates from China. It was first introduced into Europe at about 1600 and arrived in the UK about 60 years later.

Effects

The effect of caffeine on the body varies from person to person and it depends on the amount of the caffeine is taken, the way is taken, bodt's size and weight, previous usage of it, taking it with other drugs, person's mood and the circumstances in which caffeine is taken e.g. with food, in social gatherings.

Immediate effects

When taken in drink form, caffeine produces a number of mild effects on the body.

In small doses (such as a cup of coffee), caffeine:

  • increases alertness
  • increases urination
  • increased general metabolism and body temperature stimulates the secretion of gastric acid.

In large doses, caffeine can produce (especially in non-users) headaches, jitters, nervousness and even delirium. In very large doses (10g or more) caffeine can produce high blood sugar and urinary acid levels.

A regular cup of caffeine contains approximately 60-100mgs of caffeine. So 10g of caffeine is equivalent to 100-200 cups of coffee or tea.

Long-term effects

There is no evidence of caffeine producing any toxic effects if consumption is below 600mg a day. Consumption above this level may cause insomnia, anxiety, depression and stomach upsets.

Caffeine and Sleep
When is taken before going to bed, it usually:

  • delays and shortens sleep
  • reduces the deep sleep cycle
  • increases the amount of dream sleep early in the night, but reduces it overall.

Tolerance may also develop quickly, where the user may have to drink, for example, more and more coffee to get the same 'kick' from it.

Caffeine and Pregnancy

Most drugs can affect an unborn child. Research has found that some links between very large doses of caffeine and miscarriage, premature delivery and stillbirth. This is not a problem for women who consume average quantities of caffeine during pregnancy. Doctors recommend no more than 2-4 cups of coffee or tea a day (approximately 200mg of caffeine) for pregnant women.

Ongoing Research

Ongoing research suggests that consuming above 600mg of caffeine a day may make some heart problems worse and may contribute to palpitations. Also, people with anxiety disorders (e.g.panic attack, agoraphobia) should avoid caffeine as it can make the problem worse.


References CEIDA - health service/ NSW, Australia. Drugs information on web sites.

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